Fecal transplant saving lives

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A new treatment is finally available to cure a potentially fatal bacterial infection called Clostridium difficile. Kelsey Research Foundation is one of the first to offer a fecal microbiota transplant, simply called FMT. It might sound controversial, but patients who rely on it say it's nothing short of a miracle.        

Diane Clayton never expected the beginning of her marriage to turn out the way it did. Only ten days after her wedding, she was hospitalized and had to fight for her life because of C. Diff.  She lost 30 pounds in two months! 

"It stole my life from me," explains Clayton. "I couldn't work anymore. I'm a radiation therapist and it's physical and I couldn't work anymore. I had to rely on my family to take care of me 24-7." She blames her illness, Clostridium difficile, or C. Diff, on a round of antibiotics for strep throat. She also believes it wiped out the good bacteria in her gut, coupled with stress from wedding planning. Her doctor says it did make her vulnerable to C. Diff. 

"We are taking too many antibiotics!," says Dr. Herbert DuPont. "People want an antibiotic when they have a cold, and it's destroying our local defenses,]." He is the president and chief executive officer of Kelsey Research Foundation. He's concerned about C. Diff because its prevalence has quadrupled the last twelve years. 

"C. Diff is an infection," says Dr. DuPont.  It's a bacteria that is found all over the place, but particularly prevalent in hospitals and nursing homes." He's one of the first in the country to offer a fecal microbial transplant, simply called FMT. He says this is a huge advancement in medicine. 

"It's 90 to 95 percent effective with a single installation of bacteria from a healthy person's intestine," adds Dr. DuPont. "With the second treatment for failures, it's 100 percent! All the antibiotics in Houston don't treat it, but make it worse."        

This is how it works. Dr. DuPont says good bacteria is extracted from feces, then cleansed and prepared for transplant. He offers the treatment through colonoscopy, enema, or pills. 

"This is what saved my life, these little pills," demonstrates Clayton. "I wanted a million of them."

Linda Lewellen understands what Clayton experienced. 

"Bloating, large stomach, cramping, wicked diarrhea, pain in abdominal area," is how Lewellen describes the illness. She was so sick from C. Diff, she lived on her couch for months and quickly went from a size 12 to a size 4! 

"There is no life with C. Diff," says a frustrated Lewellen. "Life is going down the toilet, literally! I slept on the couch or toilet, you change on the toilet and literally you're wasting away -- all of you is going down the drain."   

Lewellen has managed to gain back fifteen pounds, but she says the illness left its mark on her. 

"Dark circles, creepy skin, I was so afraid of food an so afraid of eating, I'd get bloated, I'd live on eggs, a hard-boiled egg every two or three days and that was my diet!," says Lewellen. "I would lie there in fear and I'm still afraid of eating." She also says she would not be alive, if it weren't for FMT. Even more promising, Dr. DuPont expects many more medical conditions to be helped from this treatment. 

"That list is huge and ranges from irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's, fatty liver disease, to obesity, also neurological disease, like Parkinson's, MS and the list goes on and on with this same lesion of C. Diff and we're going to tackle it," says Dr. DuPont. 

Clayton and Lewellen sure are thankful for it! 30,000 people die from C. Diff every year, but these ladies believe FMT spared them from that fate.

Right now, patients are first treated with medicine for C.Diff. If that doesn't work and they have three relapses of C. Diff on the typical medication, then they may qualify for FMT through Kelsey Research Foundation in Houston. For more information, a clinical coordinator from Kelsey Research Foundation can be reached by calling 713-442-1220.